Sunday, July 8, 2012

What God Can Do with What We Forget

Mike says they were our next door neighbors. I'm skeptical. I don't remember that.

I remember the long, institutional hallway with opposing doors. I remember our bunny, Sugar, hop-running the length of that hall in the evenings after work. I remember trying not to cry when I first saw the dorm room and Mike gleamed, and I didn't want to live there. I remember the tears, unrestrained now, when I closed the door for the last time on the seminary students we had been. And I remember Jim's name and familiar face when he sent the blue cyber request to be friends, but not that we were next door neighbors. I may have borrowed his milk.

We all remember only bits and pieces, never the whole.

Mike and Jim are caught up on two decades of ministerial life on Facebook in short-order, and Mike thinks he has a grasp on what the old friendship was.

And he answered, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.

Then Jim sends the picture of a worn out bible that looks like it's been through war, probably spiritual war at the very least, with an explanation, because he knows we won't remember it.

We don't.

Jim reminds us. "Mike, so great to connect with you after 20+ years! In August of 1990, while neighbors in seminary housing, you and Dawn gave this Bible to me at the time of my ordination. I have used it to lead many to faith in Jesus Christ. I have prayed for you through the years because of your message to me on the inside cover. By God's grace, I have kept the charge and am running the race that will end at our Savior's feet (Hebrews 12:1-3)."

I don't remember buying this bible for our next door neighbor whom I had since forgotten.

I do remember not being able to afford to have our car fixed for months, Mike driving downtown twice a day to get me to and from work.

I do remember looking for loose change that had slipped between the car seats hoping—no, praying—for quarters and that it would be enough to make it 'til payday. It was.

I remember the grocery budget being $70 a week and calculating at the market to not go over.

I don't remember buying a bible for our neighbor, but I imagine it was a financial sacrifice. And I imagine Mike's the one who really wanted to do it. I don't know for sure, because, well, I don't remember that either.

When we forget the ordinary things we do, they might be unforgettable to our neighbor.  

And God surely doesn't forget.

Bible Inscription: Dear Jim, God bless you on this occasion of your ordination. I know that it is a special time in your life and we pray that God will use you in every possible way. We love you, Mike and Dawn Gonzalez   8-21-90

So now I'm wondering what other surprises God has up his sleeve. And that perhaps there might be more forgotten deeds that won't burn on that Day, the one I fear just a little (and wrote about recently).

Now I wonder if I've got it all wrong about that Day. I used to imagine uncomfortable, vulnerable exposure and a glaring, inescapable spotlight. But maybe that Day is really a family reunion with lots of surprises, happiness, and reminiscing over long-forgotten memories recounted by our Father.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

Maybe my Father wants me, or you, to stop dreading that Day. Maybe He would rather us yearn for it instead.

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